We caught up with EFC flyweight champion Jake Hadley after he captured the promotion’s title in just his fourth career fight.
On April 13, 2019, a major upset took place on the African continent. Virtually unknown Englishman Jake Hadley (then 3-0-0 as a professional) walked into the premier MMA outfit in Africa, EFC, and dominated one of the promotion’s biggest stars in Nkazimulo Zulu to capture the EFC flyweight title. I recently caught up with the newly-minted flyweight champion to talk EFC, competing outside of his home country of England and his goals as a mixed martial artist.
The grappling specialist honed his skills on the local amateur circuit before turning pro.
“The amateur scene in the UK is big to be honest, especially at that time when I was an amateur. The flyweight division had a lot of big names. I fought all the best guys in my weight class in the UK and Ireland and won four amateur titles, but I was really struggling to get fights. I had a lot of pull-outs, so I decided to go pro. My amateur career definitely helped me get where I am today as competing as an amateur is a learning process and I learned a lot from my fights at the amateur level.”
After a successful amateur career that saw him capture four flyweight titles, Jake Hadley turned his attention to the pro ranks. He quickly compiled a 3-0-0 record, with all of those triumphs coming inside of the first round. The EFC soon came calling.
“Well, the EFC has known me since I was an amateur fighter. A few of my teammates have fought on there shows, and I traveled to South Africa to corner then-EFC middleweight champ Yannick Bahati when he fought [Michiel] Opperman. When I turned pro, it was very hard to get opponents in the UK to fight me so I turned to the EFC and they offered me a contract.”
It came as a shock to many when it was announced that Hadley would be challenging Zulu for the flyweight championship in his promotional debut, especially when considering his first three victims leading up to the bout were a combined 4-25-0 at the time overall. The title match wasn’t the first offer, however.
“When I first signed with the EFC, they offered me Gary Joshua, which I said yes to. They then came back to me with the Zulu fight. I know Zulu has been having a hard time finding willing opponents to fight him. I do feel like I was brought as a sacrificial lamb because Zulu was on the verge of signing with the UFC, but I wasn’t bothered at all, and I knew I was going to get the win,” said the newly-crowned flyweight champion. “I knew Zulu was the favorite but it didn’t bother me one bit. I’ve been watching Zulu for years and I knew I had the skills to beat him. I have fought good opponents before Zulu but I just made them look average.”
Although he made it look easy at times, Hadley contends that the bout was the toughest of his mixed martial arts career.
“The fight with Zulu was my hardest to date, and the first time I’ve gone outside of the first round at the pro level, having done 5x5s for the belt. I feel I dominated him, easily winning four of the five rounds. I arguably took all five and the first two rounds were arguably 10-8. I feel after watching the fight back that he is definitely a true fighter, and is very tough with a big heart and will never quit. I feel that I’m just levels above him.”
For “White Kong”, capturing the belt of a major MMA promotion was a great moment, but what made it even better was the fact that he took it from a man the caliber of former champion Nkazimulo Zulu.
“It means everything to me and was probably the happiest moment of my life so far, winning that title. Not just that, beating Zulu meant a lot to me because he has been a champion for a long time.”
Hadley’s performance was met with boos several times through the course of the fight. I asked if he noticed the reaction from the South African fans in attendance, and if the reception bothered him.
“It didn’t really bother me. I know they just wanted their hometown boy to win, but he was getting his ass kicked by me,” Hadley laughs. “It did feel like I was fighting in enemy territory at first, but no, I’ve been and fought in South Africa before. I can feel the love of the fans. I think next time I’m there you will hear a lot more cheers for me. The response from the South African fans has been great overall.”
”Zulu Boy” has since moved up to bantamweight and will now attempt to capture the interim 135 title on August 10. Hadley believes it will be a good night for the man he dethroned back in April.
The new flyweight champion is already eyeing potential challenges to his throne.
“Bokang [Masunyane] is no longer with EFC, but Marino Cutendana was meant to fight Zulu a few times and Marino is on a two-fight win streak. I feel he deserves a shot vs. me, or Fafa Dwama who’s on a four-fight win streak in the division.”
Jake Hadley continues to work towards completing his ultimate goal in the sport of MMA.
“My goal is to be the greatest flyweight of all time, and to become the UFC world champ,” Hadley continued. “In my spare time, all I do is watch fighting on TB and study to get better as an MMA fighter.”
How soon can fans expect to see Jake Hadley back in action? He says an announcement is just around the corner.
“Fight news is coming soon. Look out for that, it’s a big one. I can confirm my next fight is outside of the EFC. That is all I can say for now.”
“White Kong” hasn’t made it this far alone. He wanted to thank those who make it possible for him to achieve his goals in the sport.
“I would like to thank my team, Fearless MMA in Birmingham, they helped me a lot. I can’t thank them enough. Shout out to Kaish, Kamby Banger, Ryan Hewitt, Richard Kallos, Amy Phillips and Ash Begg. My sponsors, Casino 36, Elephant Mobile, Feel Supreme, Green Hill, Xercise4Less, UK Risk LTD, and Fearless MMA.”